Published: November 21, 2008
Denise, a 44-year-old black woman poses near a window in her Warren home. Denise contracted HIV from her husband, who died of the disease. HIV/AIDS stigma affected her from the inside, out, she said. For ten years she did not seek treatment and battled immobilizing anxiety and long bouts of depression. Her dogmatic view of HIV as a "death sentence" supported her misguided belief that her doctors had given her the wrong diagnosis. It wasn't until after a near-death sickness and multiple hospitalizations and recoveries did she gain the confidence needed to work again.
"Ten years of my life was caught up in the 'what-if.' Oh, If I could have that back, there's so much I would have done," Denise said.
She is currently contemplating a career in public relations for HIV/AIDS non-profits.